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Bleeding Disorders

What is a Bleeding Disorder?

When a person has a bleeding disorder, they cannot stop bleeding because their blood has a defect or absence of clotting proteins – called factor – or platelets. Most bleeding disorders are inherited, meaning that you are born with them. Therefore, other members of your family may have the same condition so it is important for you to be able to detail this information to your physician. Inherited bleeding disorders include:

Some bleeding disorders can develop during your life. These include:

Anyone can have a bleeding disorder, including males and females, as well as people of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses.

What are Some Signs That Someone Might Have a Bleeding Disorder?

There are many different symptoms of bleeding disorders. Depending on the type and severity of bleeding disorder, bleeding may occur after an injury or surgery, or sometimes for no reason at all. Symptoms of bleeding disorders can include:

  • Bleeding into the joints and muscles
  • Excessive bruising or hematomas
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Mucosal bleeding
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Bleeding after losing a tooth or having a tooth pulled
  • Bleeding after circumcision that doesn’t stop

Parts of the Blood

A person’s blood is made up of many parts that are all carried in the plasma. Components of the blood include:

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Proteins called clotting factors
  • Electrolytes, other proteins, and other substances

How Does Blood Clot?

When your body experiences an injury, the clotting process begins. The parts of the blood that are essential in helping blood clot are the platelets and clotting factors. There are many steps involved in forming a clot.

  • The blood vessel gets smaller so less blood leaks out.
  • A platelet plug forms. Platelets that are flowing through the blood vessel come together to plug the injury.
  • A fibrin clot forms. All of the clotting factors work together to create a strong “mesh” over the platelet plug to hold it in place until the injury is healed.

What’s Different for Someone with a Bleeding Disorder?

When a person has a bleeding disorder, one or more of the steps in the clotting process don’t work right. Depending on the bleeding disorder, a person may:

  • Have a decreased amount, are missing, or have a defect in one or more of the clotting factors.
  • Have a low level of platelets.
  • Have platelets that don’t work correctly.
  • People with bleeding disorders may experience reduced mobility, pain, and other quality of life complications.

Learn more about the basics of a bleeding disorder from the National Hemophilia Foundation.